What Gefitinib is and what it is used for?
- Gefitinib is a receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor which targets the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) on cells. EGFR is found in large amounts on the surface of some cancer cells, resulting in tumors growing more quickly. Gefitinib blocks the function of EGFR, thus preventing further cancer cell growth and slowing cancer progression.
- Gefitinib is used treat non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that has spread to other parts of the body and that has EGFR mutations in exon 19 and exon 21. Your doctor will perform an EGFR mutation test to determine if this drug is right for you.
How to take Gefitinib?
- Gefitinib is taken by mouth once daily with or without food. The pharmacist will give you the tablets to take home with you. Take your drugs exactly as you are instructed.
- The tablets should not be crushed, cut or chewed. If you have difficulty swallowing tablets, you can dissolve the tablets in 100 mL of water. Stir with a spoon until tablets are completely dissolved, and then drink it immediately. The container and spoon should be washed thoroughly.
- If you forget to take the medicine, take it as soon as you remember. Skip the dose if it is less than 12 hours until next dose.
What should I need to know while taking Gefitinib?
- An allergic reaction might happens, symptoms include fever and chills, breathing difficulties, swelling of throat or face, or hives. Seek medical help at once if you feel unwell while taking this drug.
- Do not receive this drug when you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Men and women should use effective contraception during treatment and for at least 2 weeks after the treatment ends.
- Do not receive any kind of vaccination without doctor's approval.
- You will have regular blood tests to check that you have enough blood cells and have adequate organ functions to receive this drug. The timing of your treatment may be changed based on the test results or other side effects.
- There are many drugs may affect how gefitinib works. Tell your doctor about all the medicines you are taking, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
- The existing health problems may affect the use of gefitinib. You should let your doctor know if you have any other medical problems, especially lung or breathing problems and liver problems.
Common side effects
Ask your doctor about medicines that can relieve diarrhea. Drinking plenty of water and dietary changes may help.
- Skin reactions
Symptoms include redness, itching, or acneiform rash. Tell your doctor about any skin changes that you have. Your doctor can give you medicines and advices that help you feel better.
- Mouth sores
Your doctor may give you medicines that help you feel better. Good mouth care will help prevent mouth sores.
Less common side effects
- Nausea or vomiting
Medicines may be given before the treatment to prevent it happening. Eating and drinking often in small amounts may reduce the discomfort.
- Loss of appetite
Try to eat in small quantities and have frequent meals. If your appetite does not get any better after a few days, tell your doctor.
- Weakness or fatigue
Try to pace yourself and rest as much as possible. Seek medical advice if fatigue does not go away when you rest and sleep.
- Eye irritation
You might experience dry eyes or infection in the eyes. Tell your doctor if this happens. Medicines can be given that help.
- Changes in nails
The skin around your nails may become pain and redness, and nails may also become brittle or crack. The nails usually grow back slowly once the treatment is over.
- Elevated liver enzymes
This is usually mild and may return to normal after treatment has ended. Seek medical help right away if you have yellowing of the skin or eyes, dark or brown urine, or pain in abdomen, as these can be signs of liver toxicity.
Rare but serious side effects
- Interstitial lung disease
This is a rare but life-threatening lung inflammation associated with Gefitinib. Seek medical help at once if you suddenly have unexplained difficulty breathing, a hacking cough, or there is any existing breathing problems get worse.
- Drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water every day during treatment can help make your recovery a smoother process.
- Alcohol and cigarettes may interfere with certain medicines or worsen side effects from chemotherapy treatment. It is wise to avoid alcohol and cigarette smoking during cancer treatment. If you have any problem about drinking alcohol and smoking, you should check with your doctor.
- Avoid eating grapefruit or bitter oranges or drinking beverages containing grapefruit or bitter orange. This is because these fruits can affect how gefitinib works and can worsen the side effects.
- Avoid the use of St. John's Wort products as it may make gefitinib less effective.
- Your skin may more sensitive to sunlight and may burn more easily during treatment with gefitinib. You should stay out of the sun. If you must go out in the sun, wear protective clothing and use sunscreen.
- Tips for proper medicine storage:
- Keep tablets in their original packaging at room temperature, away from heat or direct sunlight.
- Keep tablets safe and out of the reach of children.
- Return any unused tablets to the hospital if your treatment is stopped.